It looks like the French Organ Music Festival is becoming a Kansas City tradition.
Last year’s inaugural festival was such an unqualified success that Mario Pearson, organist and music director for the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, is bringing it back.
The four-hour celebration of glorious music is from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. The concert will include PowerPoint presentations and video of the performers, so you can learn about the music and see the action in the organ loft by remote camera.
A French cafe will be open, where you can refresh yourself with a ham and brie sandwich, eclairs, macarons and other delicacies. A free will offering will be requested, and you can stay for as many or as few of the day’s performances as you like.
“Last year surprised a lot of people, and it especially surprised me,” Pearson said. “We had close to 1,500 people come in throughout the afternoon.
“I was expecting maybe a few hundred, mostly organ enthusiasts, but parents brought their kids to experience the splendor of sound and the visuals and seeing the organ close up. People just loved that.”
French organ music has an illustrious history going back to the baroque era, but it really hit its stride in the 19th century when large, symphonic organs were developed by the organ builder Aristide Cavaille-Coll. These magnificent instruments could reproduce the sounds of an orchestra, and their possibilities were fully exploited by French composers like Cesar Franck, Charles Marie Widor and Louis Vierne.
Immaculate Conception’s Ruffatti pipe organ does a masterful job reproducing the sound of the Cavaille-Coll. Over the years, Pearson has tweaked the instrument, adding a digital bank of sounds from Notre Dame and St. Sulpice cathedrals that now give the Immaculate Conception organ an authentic, lush, French sound.
“It just adds so much color, which is critical to the French orchestral literature because it’s orchestral, it’s symphonic,” Pearson said. “The beauty of French music marries so well with the cathedral’s organ with all the colors that are possible.
“Why just use one shade of red when you can have all these other hues added to it? That’s what digital does. It enhances the colors of sounds that come from the pipes. And all the organists are really drawing on that very beautifully.”
The festival begins at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 416 W. 12th. Free. www.kcgolddome.org.
1 p.m.: Mario Pearson & the Cathedral Schola Cantorum
Louis Vierne, Messe Solennelle, Op.16 “Kyrie”
Pierre Villette, Hymne à la Vierge
Olivier Messiaen, Apparition de l’église éternelle
1:30 p.m.: Nick Mourlam
Jean Langlais, Hymne d’Action de Grace “Te Deum”
Vierne, Impromptu from Pieces de Fantaisie, Suite No. 3, Op. 54
Vierne, Toccata from Pieces de Fantaisie, Suite No. 2, Op. 53
2 p.m.: Rachel Priest and Ray Smith
Cesar Franck, Ave Maria
Franck, Fantasie in C Major, Op. 16
Franck, Panis Angelicus
2:30 p.m.: Mary Davis
Alexandre Guilmant, Pastorale from Sonata No.1:
Symphony in D Minor, Op. 42
Guilmant, Sonata No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 56
3 p.m.: Organetto Organestrum
French folk music from the Auvergne, Brittany and other regions, played on authentic instruments
3:30 p.m.: Karen Engebretson
Charles-Marie Widor, Symphony for Organ No. 5 in F minor Op. 42, No. 1 – Allegro Cantabile
Widor, Symphony for Organ No. 5 in F minor Op. 42, No. 1 – Allegro Vivace
4 p.m.: John Davies
Vierne, Carillion de Westminster
4:30 p.m.: Jan Kraybill
Maurice Durufle, Scherzo, Op. 2
Guilmant, Caprice in B-flat Major, Op. 20, No. 3
Joseph Bonnet, Variations de Concert, Op. 1